Dr. Sandra Naddaff, Director of Studies

Literature, the undergraduate wing of the Department of Literature and Comparative Literature, is designed to meet the needs of students interested in the study of literature, literary and cultural theory, and other forms of representation in more than one culture or language. The concentration offers these students an individually tailored but carefully structured program, centered around a core of special courses and tutorials.

The Literature concentration provides students with the opportunity to explore a number of fundamental questions. What is literature? How has it been defined, analyzed, and valued? Are literary studies restricted to written texts? What tools and methods are used to study related forms like oral culture, film, mass cultural media, and visual and performance art? How do the definitions and functions of these literary and cultural forms change with differing languages, contexts, and purposes? The concentration proposes less to answer these questions than to investigate them.

The concentration in Literature considers that knowledge of more than one language and one national literature is essential to addressing these comparative questions. In cases where a student does not have the necessary linguistic competence at the time of application, we are happy to help him or her make arrangements to acquire proficiency through continued course work or summer study.

During the sophomore year students participate in a group tutorial. By studying a variety of works, drawn from different genres, periods, media, and national literatures, sophomore concentrators will be introduced to some of the fundamental questions and techniques of literary and cultural interpretation.

Junior tutorial allows students to design an individual program of study. During the fall term, students explore, with the help of their tutors, possible areas of specialization. At the end of the term, they submit a statement defining a special topic within literary and cultural studies. During the spring term of junior tutorial, they further their knowledge in their special topic and write a 20–25 page junior essay. Following the submission of the junior essay, each student takes a special field exam consisting of one essay question designed expressly with the student’s special field in mind.

Senior tutorial focuses primarily on thesis preparation. A senior thesis of 45–70 pages is required of all concentrators and is due on March 8. The second term of the senior tutorial will also help students prepare for the senior general examination.

Before the second term of the senior year, if possible, concentrators are required to enroll in at least three courses offered by faculty in Literature and Comparative Literature and listed or cross-listed under the rubric of Literature and Comparative Literature in Courses of Instruction. These courses are especially designed to pursue theoretical topics in literary and cultural study.

Admission to the concentration is based on interviews, as well as on academic records and non-English language preparation.

The concentration supports students in their petitions to study out of residence. Subject to the approval of the director of studies, students may receive one term of tutorial credit and up to three other half-course concentration credits for corresponding course work done outside Harvard. However, to ensure that students get the most out of their individualized tutorials, such credit will, as a rule, only be extended for work done outside Harvard during the junior year. Students must also follow the College’s procedures for petitioning for this credit.

Petitions for joint concentrations with other departments or programs will be considered.

15 Half-Courses

  1. Required Courses:

    1. Literature 97; Literature 98a and 98b; Literature 99a and 99b (see item 2, Tutorials).

    2. Three or four half-courses from among the courses listed under Literature and Comparative Literature in Courses of Instruction, including those courses cross-listed under Literature. Each of these courses must be passed with a grade of B– or above.

    3. Three or four half-courses in one non-English literature, each passed with a grade of B– or above. If a student takes three courses under Literature (see b above), four non-English literature courses are required; if a student takes four Literature courses, three non-English literature courses are required. Note: A student may petition the director of studies to take one non-English course at the advanced language level for concentration credit in this category.

    4. Three half-courses drawn from a variety of related departments. These may include, but are not limited to, English literature; foreign or classical literatures or folklore and mythology (including additional courses in the literature chosen under 1c above); philosophy; visual and environmental studies; studies of women, gender, and sexuality; linguistics; Core offerings under Literature and Arts A and C, as well as appropriate Foreign Cultures courses. Students should consult the director of studies to determine whether a specific course will count for concentration credit in this category.

  2. Tutorials:

    1. Sophomore year: Literature 97. A grade of B- or above is required.

    2. Junior year: Literature 98a and 98b. Graded SAT/UNS.

    3. Senior year: Literature 99a and 99b (the writing of the senior thesis). Graded SAT/UNS. In order for a student to receive a grade of SAT for the first semester of senior tutorial, one chapter of the thesis must be submitted by the end of the semester in which the thesis work is begun.

  3. A junior essay of 5,000-6,250 words is required of all students in the junior year.

  4. A senior thesis of 11,250-17,500 words is required of all concentrators in the senior year.

  5. General Examination: A three-part written examination, covering the student’s special field, general literary problems, and skills in close readings. The special field examination is given at the end of the junior year. The other two parts of the general examination are given at the end of the senior year.

  6. Study Abroad: Literature encourages study abroad for one semester of the junior year. Students who study abroad take only one term of junior tutorial, although they must still complete the junior essay, the special field examination, and 15 total concentration courses.


Each literature concentrator is assigned a tutor who also functions as the student’s adviser. In the sophomore year, this tutor is assigned by the director of studies, but in following years a student may either request a tutor from among the faculty members of the Department of Literature and Comparative Literature and the Literature Tutorial Board; or the student will be assigned a tutor (generally a member of the Tutorial Board) by the director of studies according to his or her interests. Generally, this tutor changes from year to year as the student’s program and interests change. In certain cases, however, a student may request the same tutor for more than one year.

Literature offers no course designed exclusively for freshmen and first-semester sophomores, although students interested in the program might wish to consider Literature 12:  Introduction to Literary Studies, as well as Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 18 and 19:  Writing Across Cultures: Literatures of the World (formerly Literature 10 and Literature 11).  Students are also encouraged to take courses in their first three semesters with members of the Department of Literature and Comparative Literature, particularly those listed under the rubric of Literature in Courses of Instruction. Students interested in Literature might also wish to take a language course in their language of choice, if they wish to improve their foreign language competency.

For up-to-date information on advising in Literature, please see the Advising Programs Office website.


Freshmen interested in finding out more about Literature should contact Dr. Sandra Naddaff by email ( or should make an appointment to see her during office hours by calling 617-495-4186.

For general information contact Dr. Sandra Naddaff, director of studies; or Ms. Isaure Mignotte, Literature Program Assistant, at Dana Palmer House, 617-495-4186.


Non-exempt areas:

Exempt areas:

†Historical Study A

Foreign Cultures

†Historical Study B

Literature and Arts A

†Literature and Arts B

Literature and Arts C

Moral Reasoning

ONE of the areas marked †.

Quantitative Reasoning


Science A


Science B


Social Analysis


For more information on fulfilling the Core requirement, see the Core Curriculum Requirement.

All students—regardless of concentration—planning to graduate under the requirements of the Program in General Education must complete one letter-graded course in each of the eight categories in General Education. The Class of 2013 is the first to enter the College under these requirements. Students who entered Harvard College in September 2008 or earlier are expected to fulfill the requirements of the Core Curriculum, but will be permitted to switch to the Program in General Education if such a change is possible and advisable given their overall schedule and plan of study. For more information on the requirements of the Program in General Education and the possibility of switching to it, please see The Program in General Education in Chapter 2 and the General Education website.


Number of Concentrators as of December













Literature + another field






Another field + Literature